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Stars could miss Lions tour if French fail to release them

Associated Press

9/6/2012 9:01:29 AM

LONDON -- Some of the northern hemisphere's top players may miss out on next year's British & Irish Lions tour of Australia if they cannot secure early release from their French clubs.

The Lions squad departs to Australia on May 27 and coach Warren Gatland says he is preparing to overlook players who aren't available to fly out then.

With France's Top 14 final scheduled for June 1, Toulon pair Gethin Jenkins and Andrew Sheridan, Bayonne scrumhalf Mike Phillips and Perpignan players James Hook and Luke Charteris could miss out.

Gatland is currently in France talking to club coaches about the issue.

Toulon coach Bernard Laporte told L'Equipe on Thursday "we don't pay a player so that he goes and plays for the Lions at the most important part of the season."